'Garbage bounce' helps leaky Maple Leafs dodge collapse against Blackhawks

William Nylander had a solid night, scoring once and adding two assists, but David Kampf was the hero as he gave the Toronto Maple Leafs the lead with less than two minutes remaining in the third to help defeat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-4.

TORONTO – Kyle Dubas shook his head in lucky disgust as the goal horn sounded.

Eighty seconds later, as the final buzzer honked, Kevin Lankinen stomped off the ice with his goalie stick intact but made certain to pummel the thing into furious kindling before reaching the dressing room.

In fact, the only participants who seemed genuinely pleased with Saturday’s show were the 18,934 who got to witness nine goals and David Kämpf, the unlikely but perfect hero to whack in the final one off a stanchion.

He might owe the hockey gods one.

“Garbage bounce,” said Chicago Blackhawks coach Derek King, whose club deserved better than a 5-4 loss. “Most of the glass in the league, or the boards, are pretty good.

“Just a fluky bounce. Nothing [Lankinen] could have done.”


For the Toronto Maple Leafs — who salvaged their homestand on special teams, showtime saves and pixie dust — this one could’ve went sideways in a hurry.

Instead, it nearly slipped off the rails late.

When Jonathan Toews snapped a puck clean by Petr Mrazek on the game’s first shot — and the first NHL game puck the goaltender had faced in 42 days — one had to wonder how it might affect the Leafs’ No. 2, and their faith in him.

“Not the start I wanted, but that’s how hockey is sometimes,” said Mrazek, now 2-1 despite giving up 11 through his eight periods as a Leaf. “I think I settled pretty well after that.”

However ominous the beginning to Mrazek’s third attempt to get his campaign off the ground, a rapid response by the players in front of him gave him time to settle down — and enough cushion to prevent a meltdown.

Thanks in large part to a torrid Leafs power play (and some sloppy Blackhawks play to keep putting them on it), Toronto counter-punched Toews’ opener with four unanswered goals.

Before the game was 15 minutes old, Auston Matthews, John Tavares and William Nylander had each posted multi-point affairs, Toronto had mounted a 3-1 lead, and its scorching man-advantage had struck twice.

By scoring multiple power-play goals in five consecutive games (all without Mitch Marner), the Leafs tied a franchise record (they accomplished the same feat in 1981 and 1993).

“[Ondrej] Kase’s filled in really nicely there as a right shot,” coach Sheldon Keefe said. “We still got lots of talent out there. I’m surprised at just the level that we've executed on. I mean, those are not really sustainable numbers. But we've played with tons of confidence.”

Pierre Engvall sniped one in Period 2 off a hardworking fourth-line shift, and it was 4-1.

Again: It was 4-1.

Cue the visitors’ comeback.

Tightening up around their own backup goalie, clogging up the middle and cutting out the sloppy infractions, the Blackhawks’ dominance of even-strength play began to pay off.

Toronto committed 17 turnovers; Chicago only seven.

Keefe noticed his top two lines refusing to adapt. Instead of chipping and chasing deep down the wings, they tried to create up the gut. No dice.

Toronto finished plus-2 in the special-teams battle. A hardworking Mrazek came through in the clutch with some stellar stops, turning away Alex DeBrincat seven times and Patrick Kane five, including a clear breakaway.

“That’s a good effort by him, and the fact he gets out of it feeling good from a health perspective is even better,” Keefe said.

But the Leafs forwards and depleted defence skated out of sync.

“Same story that it’s been here,” Keefe said. “Too many chances against. Too many freebies. Too many guys behind us. Same issues that were hurting us when we weren’t winning games early in the season.”

Three straight strikes by Chicago — Connor Murphy, Dominik Kubalik, Jake McCabe — tied a wild one 4-4 midway through the third, setting the table for a finish more dramatic than expected.

“Defensively, they do a lot of really good things. We've got them Number 1 in the NHL in goals against since the coaching change at 5-on-5,” Keefe said. “They’re not giving up virtually anything off the rush and forcing you to beat them in their D-zone and protecting their goaltenders very well. So, we’ve got to play our way through that.”

Or luck your way through.

A Morgan Rielly rim clicked off end stanchion, catching Lankinen behind the net and presenting Kämpf with a wide-open net to glory. To pilfer two points from his former team.

“It feels great to score in the last couple minutes. A big goal for us,” Kämpf said.

“It was just lucky bounce.”

Fox’s Fast 5

• Traded from Toronto to Chicago this week, Kurtis Gabriel (No. 34) took warmups for his new club, but coach Derek King opted to hold the fourth-liner out of action until he’s had more practice time.

King had urged management to acquire an enforcer and was pleased with the trade.

"I think he's going to be huge for us,” King said. “He’s going to finish his checks. He's a big presence, right? If guys are going to start taking liberties on our players, he's the type of guy I know is going to defend them."

• Of all players who switched teams over the summer, Chicago’s Seth Jones has the most points (23). Toronto’s Michael Bunting is tied for sixth (19).

• Matthews will take a nine-game point streak (11 goals, five assists) out west next week. He now has 18 goals, tying him with Winnipeg’s Kyle Connor for third overall. Leon Draisaitl leads the Rocket race with 23, but objects in the mirror may be closer than they appear.

• Wholesome content: Jake McCabe’s wife gave birth to a son, their second child, Tuesday. “Everyone’s saying I got dad strength times two. It’s pretty special seeing your babies born. Pretty special. There’s nothing more amazing than that, frankly.”

• One of King’s children forwarded the interim coach this rather nasty clip of Mike Milbury ripping into his candidacy as a permanent head coach. “Talk about the opposite of inspiration,” Milbury says.

"I heard it. I heard it. I had Mike [as my coach on the Islanders] for two years. I'm not sure I was the player he liked. He was trying to trade me, and then I broke my jaw, so he couldn't trade me anymore,” King explained.

"The next year, it was great. We had a great relationship. He was really good to me, treated me well. Obviously, I became unrestricted, so he had to move me [to Hartford as a rental]. And that's how I ended up in Toronto. I had nothing wrong with Mike. Yep. So, I don't know what else [to say]."

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